In Indianapolis last week Tony George (above) and the IRL announced they are convening an industry roundtable to determine the new IndyCar formula for 2011. The roundtable will be headed by retired Ford racing executive Neil Ressler and will kick-off on June 24 with discussions with engine manufacturers, car builders and other members of the racing industry. The aim is to form a consensus among the key potential stakeholders in the IndyCar series on what the new formula should be.
One of the few prominent people in the IndyCar series who has a clear vision of the new formula is Bobby Rahal. A three-time CART champion driver and successful IRL team owner, Rahal’s business empire includes fourteen automobile dealerships in Pennsylvania. Rahal is adamant that the new formula must begin to embrace the wholesale move across the automotive industry to build more fuel-efficient cars.
“I think first and foremost, whatever formula that is adopted, it should have relevance to the retail automotive environment,” Rahal (above) says. “I think the formula must have relevance to where the automotive industry is going in the future with regards to power plants.”
Rahal believes a type of cellulosic ethanol should be selected as the fuel for the 2011 IndyCar formula. He also thinks kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) or any kind of hybrids should be looked at for adoption by the IRL in 2014, or thereabouts, but no earlier. He’s convinced that it would be far too costly to introduce that kind of technology to IndyCar racing at this stage of the game.
“Longer term, we probably should go to flywheels,” he remarked. “But that’s maybe five, six or seven years down the road. You’ve got to be realistic.”
Rahal sees a twin turbo, 2.0 or 2.2 litre V-6 engine as the ideal power plant for IndyCar racing.
“I think turbocharged, small capacity engines are the way to go because that’s the way the automotive market is going,” Bobby observes. “It’s already there, in fact, and with the turbocharger, especially if it’s a one-engine series, you can turn the boost up or down depending on the type of circuit and have varying levels of performance.
“With a turbo you don’t have to worry about the noise issue when you go to street circuits or places like Laguna Seca where increasingly, you have noise limits. Just about every road course in this day and age is facing noise limits and a turbo is the best way to address those.
“I’d make it a twin turbo rather than a single because it gives better response and better performance. And a V6 has fewer parts. We did a study some years ago at CART about the difference between a V6 and V8 in terms of parts, and it adds up. You’ve got a smaller crankshaft, two less connecting rods, and eight fewer valves. So it starts to add up.”
Rahal agrees with Mario Andretti and many others in the sport who believe the balance between downforce and horsepower must return to where it was some years ago with more power and less downforce.
“The power-to-downforce ratio needs to be the inverse of what it is today where you have too much downforce and not enough power,” Rahal. “The number one benefit of more power and less downforce is that it gives you separation so you don’t have people running around stacked on top of one another. And number two is that the good drivers will be able to show themselves.”
I have to say I agree with Bobby all the way down the line and I hope the IRL gives his ideas serious consideration.